Back in November, I shared my tips for low-stress parties and gatherings. Lest anyone think that my life always goes smoothly (although if you read my post about wrapping Christmas presents, you already know better), I have to tell you that I only learned to relax about these things through some very strong lessons.
Here are a couple of those learning experiences.
Who turned out the lights?
In my early twenties, I hosted a weekly dinner party. It was essentially the same group of people every week, and it was pretty low-key. Well, it was low-key to everyone but me, because this was before I finally learned to chill and understand that I don’t need to dazzle people every single time they step into my home. True confession time: I spent hours every week trying to outdo myself and continuously be impressive. I had a lot to learn, and my lessons started with…
…a power outage. Three hours before people were due to arrive, during the latest of a recent rash of thunderstorms, I was suddenly plunged into darkness. The area I was living in at the time was plagued with power outages, but they usually only lasted a few hours. Hoping that this was just a temporary setback, I lit a few candles and finished as much dinner prep as I possibly could. By then the storm had ended, but the power wasn’t back.
If you’re thinking this would have been a good time to cancel dinner, I don’t disagree…but whether you want to call it my can-do attitude or a ridiculous level of stubbornness (and whichever you choose, you’re right), I wasn’t yet ready to throw in the towel. After all, if it turned out that I couldn’t cook, we could make sandwiches and enjoy the ambiance. I just had to get out of the area of the power failure and stock up on bread, lunch meat, cheese, and pretzels.
Unfortunately, I soon discovered that there was no “getting out of the area” because this power failure was massive (in the end, it would be three days before everyone had power again). After half an hour of fruitless driving, I had finally resigned myself to calling off the evening (and wondering what the heck I was going to eat, since almost everything I had on hand required cooking), when I happened to stumble across a convenience store that had a big sign outside saying, “Come on in. We have a generator.”
I swear I’m not making that up.
I bought everything I needed for sandwich night, including a few bags of ice for my cooler, and some extra supplies in case the power stayed off for a while (and you’d better believe I was grateful for that as the hours turned into days). When I called my friends and told them the new plan, they were up for it, and we had a candlelit pseudo-picnic that turned out to be a lot of fun. Everyone’s ability to roll with that situation was the first hint that maybe I had been taking things a little too seriously. The next lesson came just a few months later…
What was that noise?
My annual Christmas party used to be the ultimate in my compulsive event planning. I invited tons of people, made custom invitations (related to each year’s theme), planned a quirky gift exchange, decorated like crazy, and had prizes for a variety of things (also related to the theme).
Oh, and I made a LOT of food. Way too much food. An epic variety of way too much food.
So about an hour before party time, my sister Amy and I were busily assembling the aforementioned way too much food, when suddenly we heard a terrible noise from the living room. We rushed in to discover that a two foot chunk of the ceiling had collapsed, and ice and water was pouring into the room.
After a second of stunned gaping, we ran for buckets and pots and began a lunatic sort of two woman bucket brigade. When the torrent stopped a few minutes later, we put an empty bucket under the drip and stared, shell-shocked, at each other, just beginning to process what had happened. Amy recovered first, and went for towels and a mop. Before she returned, another (somewhat smaller) section fell in, and we had to repeat the process.
After that, she started cleaning, and I started crying. I hadn’t even thought yet about the possible ruination of my furniture…I was just horrified at what I saw as the ruination of my party.
Thank heaven for Amy, whose crisis management skills developed much earlier than mine. She cleaned up the water on the floor, and then called the landlord. It turned out that a massive amount of ice had accumulated on the roof of the building (it had been a pretty intense winter), and the weight was just too much. He promised it would be fixed as soon as possible (in case you’re wondering, it ended up being two days).
Amy told me, gently but firmly, to stop crying and help her rearrange the furniture before the couch was beyond saving. She then said, and I quote, “We’ll keep an eye on the buckets and crank up the heat, and no one will care because we’re feeding them.”
In other words, “Amanda, stop being ridiculous.”
As people began arriving, they were surprised, then concerned, and finally amused as Amy and I nonchalantly told the story of our “little snag”. The party was a success, and helped me have a little more perspective the next time disaster struck.
And believe me…there was definitely a next time.
What are your favorite “disaster” stories? Let’s compare notes in the comments.